Steampunk simply embodies a time and a place. The time... the late 19th century. The place... a steam powered world, where air travel by fantastical dirigibles is as common as traveling by train or boat (or submarine). A place where national interests are vastly different than our own version of history. A place where the elegant and refined are as likely to get pulled into a grand adventure, as the workers, ruffians, and lower classes. A place where the idea of space travel is not so far fetched. A place where lost civilizations are found and lost again. A place where anything is possible, and science can be twisted to meet ones own ends. That to me is the essence of Steampunk. It can have political overtones and commentary, or it can be straight escapist fiction. Either way, if it meets these criteria. It is Steampunk.